Skip to main content

New draft of Bill 59 criminalizing homeless worse than before, sure to pass on 11/19/13

Stanley Chang's wildly unconstitutional and ill-advised Bill 59 (making it illegal to lie down on a sidewalk) was redrafted and heard on October 29, 2013, before Honolulu City Council's Committee on Public Safety and Economic Development (PSED). Actually there was another draft with the same number by Councilmember Carol Fukunaga.

Testimony was heard (including my own) but the bill was deferred for a "harmonized" redraft incorporating the "best" of both current drafts. I've already stated my vehement opposition to this bill which directly challenges King Kamehameha's Law of the Splintered Paddle. That law is incorporated into the Hawaii State Constitution as "a unique and living symbol of the State's concern for public safety."

I had some hopes when it was deferred that the Council would save itself from embarrassment and litigation costs for the city by just forgetting about it and letting it die. That's what deferral often means and that's what Bill 59 deserves.

Instead, it was made worse and will be heard on Tuesday, November 19, 2013, at Honolulu Hale.

When the Council holds hearings, we citizens hope our appearance and testimony mean something. I know, I'm dreaming. Hearings are more and more for show and to comply with law. There is nothing compelling politicians to do anything other than make some time available for testimony.

But since the Council went through the trouble of redrafting Bill 59, one would think they might take into consideration some of what testifiers said. Here are videos of some testimony, and the result it had. I follow each video with a written cheat sheet so you don't have to actually watch the video if you don't want to.

My testimony:

Oppose Bill 59 in all forms. There are some things that I know, that you (the Council) knows but the public may not know: 
1. The State Attorney General's office has informed the Council that some say the bill directly violates Article IX, Section 10 of the State Constitution.
2. HPD has submitted testimony that the bill, "may lead people to conclude that the City is focusing on the homeless," and if that's the case, "the City will have to deal with many suits alleging constitutionality claims…"
3. The public thinks that the Department of Facility Maintenance is supposed to fix potholes, pave roads, and fix sidewalks, but the Council okays budgetary allocations to DFM knowing that they lead the midnight raids on the homeless. 
4. Bill 59 will likely be mired in legal challenges to its constitutionality as are its predecessors, Bill 54 (ordinance 11-029) and Bill 7 (ordinance 13-8).
But in spite of that, I predicted that the Bill would pass without a problem because the Council, based on its history, is more concerned with the profits of its corporate sponsors than the poor and homeless
The current draft keeps the offending language even though Councilmember Pine conceded we had a point:

Councilmember Kymberly Pine:


Kathryn Xian (Executive Director of Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery):
Aside from constitutional issues, the bill disproportionally affects the poor, and especially homeless youth.
We need to seek other remedies for homelessness.
Hawaii is above average in its rate of incarceration of juveniles and this bill will make things worse. It will lead to incarceration of the nonviolent. 
Taxpayers will foot the bill for the repercussions of this law which are inevitable.
There are better ways to address poverty.
Suggest at least amending bill to exclude juveniles, and if adult breadwinner is incarcerated, the City must have proper facilities for care of youth.
Bill will lead to incarceration of nonviolent people who are honest, kind people who don't deserve to be in prison with violent offenders.
None of Xian's suggestions were taken into account, so by enacting Bill 59, Honolulu will be  creating another growing class of people: homeless juvenile offenders. A group that will be even more vulnerable to exploitation.

Derek Nathaniel James Warren:
Did your ancestors at one point require the protection of the Law of the Splintered Paddle? Should you be ashamed of this? Would you criminalize members of your own family who were or are houseless? 
(deOccupy Honolulu) provides food, emergency medical attention, and housing for houseless. 
Are we teaching young people to attack the less fortunate? 
Are we saying I don't care about your circumstances? 
Bill 59 is supposed to be about safety, but how safe are the planters that cause just as much of an obstruction?
Nothing Warren said had any effect.

Michael Daly:
Opposed to bill in toto. 
Public safety is reasonably fulfilled by other existing laws.
Impact caused by the houseless epidemic is of City's and State's own making and can be addressed otherwise by instituting immediate housing first policies.
Michael Daly's made so much sense that the Council completely overlooked all his comments.

Michael Tada:

"I want you to understand these people, the houseless, they need help." 
"How can you criminalize houselessness when you got a housing crisis?" 
"Are you happy? How dare you!"
Good statements and questions -- good enough to merit response. But none have been forthcoming.

What changes did the Council make? The draft being heard now prohibits lying down on the sidewalk "during the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m." (meaning between those hours, I think), and limits it to the three dense urban zones of the Chinatown special district; the Hawaii capital special district; and Waikiki special district. Since it does nothing to reduce homelessness, these hours should see an increase in homeless populations outside of these areas like on King Street between Downtown and Moiliili.

I made a prediction on October 29, that the bill would pass without a problem and I'll be at Honolulu Hale on November 19, to tell you why it passed. Stay tuned!

H. Doug Matsuoka
17 November 2013
Makiki, Honolulu

Current draft of Bill 59: http://www4.honolulu.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-144457/87m_4bjj.pdf

Honolulu City Council Agenda for November 19, 2013: http://www4.honolulu.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-145303/111913%20PSED%20Agenda.htm

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What The City Doesn’t Want You To Know About Thomas Square

[This article was originally published by CivilBeat on July 21, 2016. I'm reprinting it with video clips. Doug]

The City of Honolulu plans to close Thomas Square on Aug. 15 for six months and re-open it in February 2017 as something completely different, according to its master plan. Although city officials have unveiled grandiose plans concerning a drastic makeover, there are a number of troubling things they are trying to keep under cover:

1. It will no longer be a public park. The master plan calls for Thomas Square to be transferred from the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, where it is a public park, to its Department of Enterprise Services. What is it? The department runs the Blaisdell Center, the Waikiki Shell, the zoo and the public golf courses. By way of a memo dated April 28 from the city’s enterprise chief Guy Kaulukukui to the state’s head of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the city asked the state to make changes to allow a change of purpose for…

HCDA creates their own anti-homeless police at HAR hearing

While no one was watching, the HCDA (Hawaiʻi Community Development Authority) held  a Hawaii Administrative Rules hearing that creates their own anti-homeless police force, and (incidentally) raises park fees by up to 500%. The affected parks are at the intersection of Honolulu Council Districts 4, 5, and 6, (Trevor Ozawa, Ann Kobayashi, and Carol Fukunaga respectively) but none (or their staff) were present today. These laws were made without any oversight from the public or their elected representatives.

Who knew that such sweeping changes could be made without the oversight of any elected officials? And after one decision making hearing that is accountable to no one? If the Honolulu City Council had to rule on such changes, it would require three full council hearings, and opportunities for public participation at each.

My own interest in attending the hearing was to get some kind of hint as to the mechanism the City would use to curtail First Amendment rights in Thomas Square afte…

Eric Seitz: Pro bono is a crock

At yesterday's "Justice in Jeopardy, Expanding Access to Justice in Challenging Economic Times" at the UH Richardson Law School, Dean of Harvard Law School Martha L. Minow pointed out that one in five Americans now qualify for civil legal assistance because they are within 125% of the Poverty Level -- a record high in the history in the county. As the demand for legal services grows, the available resources continue to diminish, leaving most without the "equal protection" of the law.

I checked out the breakout session on pro bono because I used to work for Hawaii's pro bono referral service, Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii (VLSH).

These days, most pro bono services are not attorneys representing clients, but short informational sessions at legal clinics. Moderator Robert LeClair asked attorney Eric Seitz what he thought of this turn in pro bono services.  This is what Eric said:

"Well, let me start out by saying that I've always thought pro bono w…